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Episode 099: The 12-Year Overnight Success With Caren Magill

In episode 099 we talk with Caren Magill of The Fit Habit who has stayed the course with blogging and found success after a series of steps helped her to really hone in on blogging successfully.

We cover information about technical necessities to blogging, creating rich content, valuing older content and improving on it and being authentic with your true voice.

Listen on the player below or on iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast player. Or scroll down to read a full transcript.


Guest Details

Connect with The Fit Habit
Website | Instagram | Facebook

Bio
Caren is a certified yoga teacher, fitness instructor and author of The Fit Habit. She shares simple, low carb recipes, quick home workout ideas and practical ways to foster mind + body wellness.

Takeaways

  • Avoid being a “niche” jumper – when you have something to share from a 100 different points of view related to a topic, you have settled on your topic.
  • Traffic is key to getting established as a full time blogger. You need to be aware of your writing and photography skills so that you can gain traction for traffic. From there you can monetize.
  • Technical issues can hamper your ability to grow as a bloggr – site speed, technical SEO issues, having a good host and redirect loops are just a few common issues that have to be addressed.
  • Clear up orphan posts – it’s important to have internal and external links to support your content.
  • Rich content is an important – revisit old content and bolster it up. You serve your audience by your blog being resource rich.
  • Think about the principles of WHO are you serving? WHAT is their problem? This is not a brand overall thought, but for each and every post that you’re writing, who’s the audience?
  • What’s is your users intent when search for something with Google?What are they thinking about? What’s the problem that they’re trying to get solved? How are you solving it? Are you answering all the questions? Is it actionable?
  • There’s a balancing act of injecting your personality into your blog and writing style without overwhelming readers without facts.
  • Your blog should be a source of information; a resource. Use your About Page to highlight more of your personality and share it on IG stories, etc.
  • Figure out what your intention is behind blogging and how you want to serve the path and user experience for your audience? That really is going to set you up for success early on.

Resources Mentioned

  • Casey Markee – SEO Audit

  • iMark Interative – for a site speed tune up

  • The Blog Fixer – for no-follow fixes (I had no idea you had to no-follow affiliate links)

  • Milo Tree – for growing Instagram (or anything else)

  • Food Blogger Central Facebook Group

  • Food Blogger Pro

  • Elite Blog Academy (to a lesser extent)

  • Grayson Bell

  • Everything Food Conference

  • Eat Blog Talk and the Food Blogger Pro podcast!

Transcript

Click for full text.

Intro:

Welcome to Eat Blog Talk, where food bloggers come to get their fill of the latest tips, tricks, and insights into the world of food blogging. If you feel that hunger for information, we’ll provide you with the tools you need to add value to your blog. And we’ll also ensure you’re taking care of yourself, because food blogging is a demanding job. Now, please welcome your host, Megan Porta.

Megan Porta:

Food bloggers. Don’t forget to check out the food blogging forum style community that we started over forum.eatblogtalk.com. Finally, there is one place that we can all convene and talk and that isn’t scattered all over Facebook. Here are the things that I am loving about it. It is free. It also allows for categorized discussions on all food blogging topics, and there’s a category for sharing successes, AKA self promotion. So no more holding back about discussing your big wins and things that you’re promoting. Also, everything is in one single spot. So no hopping around from group to group, and there’s an amazing opportunity to network and really get to know your fellow food bloggers in a single place. So come join the discussions that are going on over forum.eat blogtalk.com. And I hope you enjoy this as much as I do. Don’t forget. Forum.eatblogtalk.com.

Okay. Food bloggers. Have you heard of Flodesk, the new big email marketing rage? This is an amazing new option for managing your email subscriber list. It is super easy to use and it comes with gorgeous, intuitive drag and drop templates. And Flodesk does not charge based on the number of subscribers. So your monthly rate will stay the same from month to month. Everyone pays $38 a month or use my affiliate link to get 50% off and pays only $19 a month. You guys, this is a fraction of the price of other email service providers, and you’ll be blown away by the beautiful and intuitive templates waiting for you inside. Visit eatblogtalk.com/resources to grab your link Flodesk. The stunning new option for email marketing.

Hello, food bloggers. Welcome to Eat Blog Talk the podcast made for you, food bloggers seeking value for your businesses and for your lives. Today, I will be having a conversation with Caren  from thefithabit.com and we will talk about her 12 year overnight success. Caren is a certified yoga teacher, fitness instructor, and author of The Fit Habit. She shares simple, low carb recipes, quick home workout ideas and practical ways to foster mind and body wellness. Caren, I am excited to dive in to our chat today with you, but first give us a fun fact about yourself.

Caren:

Well thank you for having me. I really appreciate this. Fun fact about me. Hmm. I have a couple, but the one that pops to mind right now, I’m kind of collecting citizenships. Right now I have three and I’ve been thinking about working on a fourth. So I was born in Canada to Irish immigrant parents. So I got my UK citizenship many years ago in addition to my Canadian citizenship. And then about 12 years ago or 13 years, almost 14 years ago, I moved to the US and I met my husband and I got US citizenship. And now with all the Brexit stuff going on, I was also thinking about getting my Irish citizenship, which is the South of Ireland, which is part of the EU. So yeah, it could be up to four. So I feel like I’m really a citizen of the world.

Megan:

It’s like a little collection that you have going on.

Caren:

I know, I know!

Megan:

That makes you really unique. Not many people can say that. I love that. Thank you for sharing that. So let’s dive into your story. I am excited to learn more about your story, Caren, because wow. I think you embody the true definition of perseverance because 12 years is a really long time to blog, especially if you feel like you didn’t see any signs of success during that time. So let’s hear it. Talk us through your journey and also just start by talking about some of those things you feel you could have done differently in those first years.

Caren:

Well, actually, now that you’re saying it out loud, I’m thinking to myself, Oh, it’s actually been more like 13 years. Because I remember I pressed publish on my first blog post. I think it was like maybe August or September of 2007.

Megan:

Whoa.

Caren:

Yeah, it’s been a long time and none of those early blog posts exists anymore, which is part of my story. Like I dragged them from one blog to another. I started off sort of in this yoga experience where I’ve got really into yoga. I ended up quitting my job and going to India to learn how to become a yoga instructor. And I was going to open all these studios. And one thing I learned while I was in India for several months, it was, I didn’t want to teach yoga for a living. So I came back and that’s like a story for another podcast. But, my blog kind of meandered across a number of different genres and titles. So like I said, it started off in yoga, called the skeptic Yogi and then it went on to several different brands just because I have this thing where I get tired of niches and titles and I move on, which would be my first “don’t do that” point. But you know that the last, I would say the last five to six years of my blogging journey has focused really on health wellness, food fitness, just because that’s, that’s the topic that I speak to the most. I’ve had other blogs, aside from this one that I’ve just kind of tested the waters with, with different topics. But for some reason, I just keep coming back to food and fitness because I just seem to be prolific in that area. So that, that’s what brings me up to today.

Megan:

So I just came up with this term, as you were talking, a niche jumper, don’t be a niche jumper. And I think so many of us do that, especially those of us who started way back. And I started in 2010, but I feel like even back then, that was really a long time ago. So you started in 2007. That is a long time ago. I know that I started out not really having a focus for many years. I didn’t, I was like, I’m going to serve everyone. Let’s just write for everybody. And that didn’t serve me. It took me a really long time to figure that out too. So I kinda like that niche jumper, don’t be a niche jumper, figure it out as soon as you can. So what’s your advice for people who do want to get into blogging? They have a passion for food or fitness or whatever it might be surrounding food and they don’t know what their focus is yet. What’s your advice for them?

Caren:

Well, I think, you know, I think you’re correct is say, try to figure out your niche as soon as possible, but really the only way to figure that out is to keep writing. So for example, I have another blog, it’s called Fun and Happy, and it’s about optimizing your spendings and it’s kind of money focused, but not without being financially focused. But I have a really hard time finding my voice in that arena, I guess it’s because I don’t have the most, I don’t have as much inherent opinion or passion for it that I do about food and fitness. So I just have so much to say on this topic that I never run out of things to say, even though my particular niche is pretty narrow, I still can look at it from a hundred different perspectives and points of view. So I think my bigger point there is that you really need to think about who it is you’re writing for because all of those years that I was, you know, niche hopping, I was really writing for myself and I was journaling and I was, you know, talking about the things that I want to talk about. So I really wasn’t thinking about my end reader, who, you know, who it was, wasn’t even really in existence because who wants to hear all of the, you know, day to day happenings of my life. So it wasn’t really, until I figured out who it is that I wanted to serve and even thought about that as a concept that I was able to niche down. Like this is my person, this is what she struggles with. This is how I can help her, so this is my topic. And I think that’s how you get there. Or at least that’s how I did.

Megan:

I like that you mentioned this that you need to find maybe to start, what are those things that you can write endlessly about? Because we all have that relating to food. We’re food bloggers, for a reason, we like some aspect of food. There’s something that draws us in. And for each of us, it’s something a little bit different, but what is it, what is it about food that you could sit down literally and write every single day about? And what are the things that you couldn’t maybe exclude those two? I couldn’t write endlessly about certain topics, but there are certain things I would love to write about and we all have that. So figuring out what that is, taking your passion and then figuring out who that person is that you are writing for. So I’m curious to hear what, what forced you to see the things that you were doing wrong?What point did you ask, what I’m doing isn’t working and I need to make changes?

Caren:

I think the thing that forced me to notice I was doing things wrong was that I wasn’t reaching my end goal. My end goal being, I always wanted to be a full time blogger. That’s even before bloggers were making full time living, that’s what I, in my mind, I thought that would be the perfect career for me. So on that journey, I was always thinking, Oh, I knew that traffic is sort of like step one, traffic and audience. And then from there, you know, you can monetize it in a number of different ways. So I was never getting the traffic that I wanted and I was always looking at, you know, tweaking my content, is my photography not good enough? Am I not taking the right angle? I’m thinking about my end user, but really a big piece of it that I wasn’t even aware of was the technical elements. I had so many technical issues going on with my blog that I was beyond me. I wasn’t even thinking about things like page speed and, SEO, technical SEO pieces, and, um, redirect loops all of these various different things that were hindering my ability to show up anywhere from an SEO perspective. So when I started learning more about the technical aspects and reached out to, you know, experts, so a lot of people in the food and food blogging industry are familiar with Casey Markee. I signed up for a mini audit with him. And of course, when you sign up with him, it usually takes like six months before you get your actual appointment with him. But right away, when I signed up with him, like, you know, he kind of looks at your, the backend of your site immediately before he even books the appointment. And he was able to tell me, like several different things that immediately shot my website from like literally a thousand page views per month, up to like seven or 8,000 page views per month. Just based on my site being redirected to a couple of places, which was a problem with my host. He suggested I change hosts. So I did that, and it made a huge difference. There were a couple of other things that he suggested that I do. Small technical things that made a world of difference.  I had always been bootstrapping my blog and it wasn’t until I brought in the help of experts, because I try to be as frugal at this as I possibly can. Once I was able to sort of, you know, say, if I want to make this a living, I need to put my money where my mouth is and start investing in certain things, that I started to see the rewards of that.

Megan:

Okay. First of all, I think, I always say thi, food blogging is such a big, gigantic puzzle, and there’s so many different pieces to it. And we don’t always know which pieces to focus on or are even there. Like you said, you didn’t even know some of those technical issues were issues until you brought in some help. So technical is definitely a big part of it, especially for older blogs. My blog is ancient like yours, and I did everything wrong. I think all of us did in the beginning because we didn’t know what we were doing. SEO wasn’t really a thing back then. I did everything wrong. So it took me years to figure that out. And then also years to kind of start building things back up and piecing things together. So it’s complicated, but I think technical is a really good place to start, getting help from people who know what they’re doing and are experts in the area, in the fields. So what are some other things beyond technical that you started focusing on?

Caren:

Well, it really, I look at all the various different ways to build traffic. And once I started to see the potential with SEO, I really honed in on that. So even beyond the technical piece of SEO, when I went through my audit, I was really floored by how thin some of my content was, posts from years ago. And also, you know, a lot of my posts are orphan posts, which if your listeners don’t know what that is, it’s like a post that doesn’t have any other post linking to it. And it doesn’t appear anywhere else on your site. So it doesn’t have any arms or legs. So if Google isn’t, for lack of a better terminology, Google doesn’t like, rank those maybe as high. So when I started to understand the value of rich content and what that actually means, because everybody always says, Oh, you know, content is King and create good content and you’ll see, you’ll see results from it. But that’s such a vague term. Like how do you even know what good content is? Well, that kind of comes back to the principles of who are you serving? What is their problem? And this is not just like a brand overall thought, but for each and every post that you’re writing, who’s the audience? What’s the question, that if you’re thinking about this from an SEO content or concept, you know what’s their intent when they’re putting something into Google, like, what are they thinking about? Where do they want to go? What’s the problem that they’re trying to get solved? How are you solving it? Are you answering all the questions? This is particularly important with food blogs, because I mean, you might know how to roast a chicken, but somebody who has never roasted a chicken before, you know, may not know anything about it. So you have to think in terms of, as Casey always said, drunk toddlers, you know, they, they don’t know anything and you’ve got to take them in this entire blog post, you know, from, I don’t know a damn thing to I can do this, in every post. And that to me is what quality content is. A post that answers all of the reader’s questions and is thorough without, you know, a lot of narrative and pontificating, which is another thing that I used to do a lot of. So I’ve pulled a lot of that out. So, you know, I also hear other people say, well, your blog has to be personal and your people have to know, like, and trust you. So there’s always that balancing act of, well, how do I inject my personality without pontificating or sharing information that readers don’t want to know about? And what, where I’ve landed is my blog is a source of information. It’s a resource. I can show more personality on my About Page, which is, you know, where I think people are going to learn about me. So they do want to hear that stuff and more in social media, but I keep it off my blog and I try to keep my blog as resource rich as possible. And I have been so rewarded for that.

Megan:

Resource rich, what a great term. I love that. So it really, it is just a matter of taking a step back, being able to see your content and with a different set of eyes, almost like looking at it a little bit differently, which is going back to this whole concept that’s becoming more and more popular about just the user experience being kind of the main thing that we should be focusing on. Yes, SEO is important, but truly it comes down to this. What does your user want, first of all, who is your user, figure that out, and then what does your user need from you? And then be a resource rich place for them to go. I love that. So how does someone do that? Because it’s easy for us to say that like, yeah, you need a different set of eyes, but how does somebody who really has never thought about this concept before, take a step back and look at their content with a new set of eyes?

Caren:

Actually, just this morning when I was walking my dogs, I was listening to your podcast that just came out about refreshing old content. And I think that’s a great place to start, especially like if you’re a new blogger, let’s put that aside for a second. And let’s assume you’ve been blogging for like three or four years. Go back to those blog posts you wrote four years ago and reread it. And think if I didn’t know anything about this topic, would this answer my questions? Is there way too much personal information here? Am I pontificating? Meaning I’m giving you a bunch of opinions, but not really facts. Another thing, is it actionable? Because I’m food and fitness and a big focus of that is obviously weight loss. Most readers come to my site because they want to eat better and move more for the goal of feeling better and losing weight. So I spent a lot of time talking theoretically about, you know, why my philosophies have worked for me and they have worked for me. But when I talk about philosophies and things like that, I’m not really giving my reader actions, you know, so I wasn’t really, not only was I not giving them calls to action, like go, you know, follow me on Instagram or post a picture of this recipe if you make it. But also, I wasn’t giving them tactics and actionable steps where they can solve their problems for themselves. And I think a big part of looking at my content was that, and then some of my content, I don’t know if I was just, I had a glass of wine, but you know, some of it just didn’t even make sense. So I think if you go back and look at old posts with fresh eyes, you will immediately be able to judge and critique and improve and, or just delete or 401 redirect, I think it is. But if you’re a newer blogger, then I think starting with that point of, what does my reader need to know and how can I help them and how can I make it as easy and as quick and easy as possible. But also I always think now in terms of keywords and user intent when I’m creating a post. So if I’m going to create a post about this food product or recipe, what is my reader thinking about when they’re Googling something or even in Pinterest? So it doesn’t have to be just be Google, but what is my reader searching for that I’m going to deliver to them and have all of the other posts that are out there in existence on the same topic, because let’s face it, everything under the sun has been pretty much read about, what are they saying and how good is their quality? So, you know, if I’m writing a recipe for a low carb protein cookie, and I type that into Google or Pinterest, I’m going to look at everybody else’s posts on that and how am I going to improve upon it and do everything they’ve done and more. So it might be, there’s some great recipes out there, but I’m going to be the only one who does a video or does an ingredient list or option. So I just try to be as thorough, especially with my food posts as possible, you know, filling out recipe cards as much as possible without being verbose and, you know, sharing a lot of personal information.

Megan:

Okay. What a great strategy. So really, if you’re listening and you are struggling with this, or you didn’t even know you were struggling with this, but you want to dive into this, that is such a great strategy. Just to start going through your old content, piece by piece, look at it with a few questions in mind, right? So like, is this actionable? Is it resource rich, like Caren said earlier. And then also taking it to the next level and looking at your competition, what are those top posts along those same lines or those same keywords or key phrases, what are they doing? And then how can you make your content stand out? How can you make it better? So it’s almost like setting a little checklist for yourself, like going through those key points. And then I think if you can do that for every post, every piece of content that you have, you’re pretty much guaranteed to make your content as amazing as you possibly can. Right?

Caren:

Yeah, absolutely.

Megan:

I think that’s a great strategy. Then I want to touch on this really quickly. You talked about making it personal without being super verbose and just going on and on. You don’t have to tell lengthy stories about every single thing you talk about, but there are ways to do that. There are ways to make it personal without going into that crazy detail. You mentioned the About Page. If people really want to know about you, they can go there and know, get to know you in detail, but what are ways to make each post personal without making people yawn?

Caren:

I have one of my favorite writers and it’s actually in the finance space and that’s another tip I recommend is read other blogs. It doesn’t have to be in food, but you can pull a lot of great ideas from bloggers and other genres. So there’s this guy, Budgets Are Sexy, is the name of the blog. And I think right then and there, like with a title like that, you know this guy’s got a great sense of humor and he’s got a mohawk which is kind of his signature personality piece and also the way he writes. So he’s actually more of a personal blogger. So, from that perspective, he does sort of pontificate a little bit, but really he uses a lot of his community to draw upon. And the way he writes is just, it’s got a ton of character, you know, like he’ll write a really important point. But then in parentheses he’ll point a little arrow at something he just wrote and say like, that’s the bomb right there. This is my favorite thing right there. Like he’ll interject little pieces that don’t take up a lot of content, but show off his personality and little jokes and things like that. So if you can just kind of keep it to a minimum, but really make it, you, then I think that helps a lot.

Megan:

I think the great thing about platforms like Instagram are really awesome at letting you portray little tidbits of your personality into your readers and your audience, without having to tell those long stories, right? Like Instastories, you can do one minute of something food-related or personal related just to let someone know what kind of person you are, what kind of cook you are or fill in the blank. But I think Instagram is kind of a good way to highlight that, to highlight your blog. Not saying that everyone that reads your blog is going to be on Instagram, but there are going to be some that will crossover platforms. So I think that’s a great way to utilize all the platforms, sprinkle in those little bits of your personality. Like, I love that you mentioned that guy with the, I’m sorry, I don’t remember his blog name, but his mohawk, like just something like that, let someone know like, Oh, he’s fun. He’s, you know, you don’t have to say much in order to let somebody in and let them know about you.

Caren:

Right. I think the key with him is that he takes his writing and his topic seriously, but he doesn’t take himself seriously. And that’s hard to, that’s a hard thing to do because you want your readers to trust you, especially if you’re talking about money, but you also want it to be interesting and fun because money and numbers can be kind of boring. So I think he strikes a really good balance. And I think just finding other writers that you appreciate their writing can influence the way you write quite a bit.

Megan:

I agree. And I always think, like, I don’t know when I see a picture pop up of somebody who’s trying to present themselves as really serious and stoic and just knowledgeable. Yes. But I don’t know, like you can represent yourself in so many ways and I’m almost turned off by those people who’ve got like a suit on and, slicked back hair, like there’s so many different people that I would rather connect with then that sort of person. So there’s so much about the way that you present yourself, whether it’s in your picture that you display on your blog or just anything that you say in your posts. I like to add something, just little personal touches at the beginning of every single blog post I write. And it’s not much, but just enough to let people in a little bit, just delivering little nuggets and then getting to the meat. So I think it’s just a matter of feeling through that process and figuring out what works and that can definitely take some time. Do you agree?

Caren:

Oh, I do. And to your point about the serious person, I think it’s so easy to go there. And I think like in my journey, I’ve had that as well. I’m a serious fitness person with a nutrition certification. And I want people to know, like, and trust me, but I was starting with trust first. I want to be this trusted resource and people to take me seriously, but really who wants to learn about food and fitness from somebody who’s like, like a robot.

Megan:

Right, exactly.

Caren:

I think the mindset there is one, I’m trying to stand out and I’m trying to, you know, I’m trying to get my readers to come back and trust me, but really at the end of the day, whatever you write on, there’s like a million other people writing on that as well. And you’ve got to, it’s a fine balance of being resource rich, don’t pontificating, but also being yourself because people are going to connect to that or they’re not. And the people that I go back to time and time again are, you know, they’re people that let their personality shine through and that I jive with them. Cause I’m either going to jive with you or I’m not. And if I don’t, that’s cool. But you know, my loyalty stays with the people that I connect with and that I like their personality.

Megan:

It is such a fine line. Isn’t it? Like you want people to trust you, like you said, but what does that mean? How do you portray that? Have you read building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller? It’s incredible. I’m only halfway through it, but just absolutely loving it. But chapter six, he talks about being the guide for your hero or your user. And he talks about how empathy and authority are the main things that you want to tap into in order to build that trust and get people to follow your journey with you. So that’s something I’m thinking through now is like, you need to empathize, show them that you understand their struggle, but also build authority. Like I’ve got you. I know how to do this. I’ve been there. And I think that builds trust more than any picture or, you know, any way that you can visually represent yourself can. But that’s such an interesting concept because it’s so easy to think, I need to get people to trust me so I’m going to put a really fancy outfit on, or, you know, it’s interesting what people equate with trust.qq1

Caren:

It is, and everybody’s different. And I struggled with this one a lot and I’ve tried every different method and I still struggle with it sometimes when I’m writing and that creative process where it’s like, I’m typing something in and the little person in the back of my head saying, this sucks, be more serious! Nobody’s going to pay attention to this. And I have to just let that go and think to myself, some people are going to think this sucks and some people are gonna think this is great and my people will appreciate it. And that’s just how it’s going to be. I can only be me. And I think when you respond to your inner critic that way, it takes a load off and you’re just able to kind of be you, but be the useful you.

Megan:

People are gonna appreciate you being you, your true audience will appreciate that. Yeah. It’s really interesting to think through that because I think so much of the time we just have assumptions about what trust means. So giving that some thought can really benefit you I think, as a food blogger and an influencer.

Caren:

Yes. And how you want to be trusted. I think that’s how it comes down to. Do you want to be trusted as the known expert? Like I’m like a doctor or something like that, or do you want to be the, you know, the big sister who’s saying, listen, girlfriend, I was there like two months ago. I know where you’re at. Here’s what you need to do and just be results oriented. I think, depending on the genre, a lot of people, like listen, girlfriend might not work for a money blog, but for a food blog and somebody maybe wants to lose weight or just wants quick, easy tips, they’re going to want the big sister.

Megan:

So true. And delivery is such a huge part of it because some people I know really appreciate that direct like, Hey, listen, here’s what you need or don’t need. And some people don’t do well with that. Some people need the empathetic, like, Hey, I feel you I’ve been there. Let’s go through this together. So it’s kind of like, you’re going to find those people who jive with that, I think whatever your delivery is. So I would love to touch on the fact, Caren, that you are like a master of perseverance and persistence, because we mentioned earlier in this episode that you’ve been doing this for so long and that you did it for so many years seeing such little growth. So I think that says a lot about you and you have definitely built up your perseverance muscle in a way that a lot of people never are able to. So pushing it through those tough times that you have with grit is in my opinion, super valuable. And especially as a food blogger, because we’re in such a competitive space with so much going on, everything is always changing. So from my perspective, you are a hundred steps ahead of so many other people because you have persevered like no other. So how much of an impact do you think that has had on you and your blog?

Caren:

Well, you know, it’s funny listening to you because I would not consider myself a person that perseveres, but maybe that’s just because I’m very hard on myself. But it’s, you know, it’s true. Like there’s been a couple of things in my life, the things in my life that I’ve really wanted, I have not let up on. Like, I’m a dog with a bone when it comes to, you know, my food and my fitness. I used to be somebody who’s very overweight, I’ve lost 80 pounds and kept it off. So, yeah. And when you come to think of it, that does take perseverance. And I went from being somebody who was never picked first for team sports and was always missing gym class because she hated it to doing like a half iron man and all kinds of things much later in life. So yeah, I guess I do have perseverance for the things that I want, I really want. And like I said, I’ve always wanted to be a full time blogger and although I’m not there yet, like I still have another career, I can see the path forward now, but for 12 years I couldn’t see the path.

Megan:

That’s a long time!

Caren:

It really is. And I stopped so many times. I mean I quit and then the next day I’m like, I can’t quit or, you know, I quit and I say, it’s the genre. That’s why, you know, I started trying different things and I have like the squirrel or shiny penny syndrome. Um, but I’ve always come back to this and I think it’s because I couldn’t imagine a life without it and you know, blogging for me, even though I’m, I’m trying to be less personal and narrative and all of those sort of things in my blog, it gets still creative expression for me and I need that. Right. So for me it really kind of fills, I would do it even if I never got paid because for 12 years I didn’t get paid because it just, it’s something that I love so much. And I love the community, especially the food blogging community. I mean like the nicest people. So generous, so generous with their time, their thoughts, their perspective. Like I just, I love everything about it. So I just couldn’t imagine life without it. So I think blogging because, you know, some people think, Oh, I’m going to become a blogger and get rich. Like that’s the wrong perspective, because you know, I don’t know anybody. Well, there are a few people that, but there are unicorns that are rich, but most people that make a living have invested like at least five to 10 years. It’s very rare that a blogger comes into this space and is making a full time living in like, you know, 12 months or less. There’s a couple, but very rare. So if you’re looking to make a lot of money, there’s just way too many other career paths that you can and should take. But if you really just have a passion for it, you can’t give it up because it’s part of who you are.

Megan:

I love that, creative expression, plus whatever your goals are, kind of create that magic, right? Because you kept going back to it because it was a way for you to creatively express yourself. And you also knew that it had potential as a career and you’re still striving toward that. So I love that that combination of things kind of has propelled you to keep moving forward. And 12 years is a long time, like we mentioned. So I’m sure there were plenty of times where you were done, because there are so many things that come into this world that are just overwhelming and stressful and depleting. And I can’t handle this again. And another algorithm change. So how have you handled all of that? Like all of the just ups and downs and craziness that we all endure?

Caren:

You know? Um, I feel like when I have, I call it a proverbial punch in the face, like an algorithm head or something like that. I, just say, okay, I need to take a break from this. And I do take a break from it because if I push myself too hard, I will burn myself out. And then that’s when I risk walking away from it. I don’t also don’t put that much pressure on myself. I don’t know if you’ve ever read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Megan:

Yes I have. I love it.

Caren:

And the one thing she said is that never, never make your creativity be your source of income. Don’t put that kind of pressure on it. Always have a different way. Now obviously her creativity has paid her in dividends, but I’ve also looked at it like that as well. So ultimately I do want to become a full time blogger, but that’s a career just like any other that has its ups and downs and stuff like that. So I still have other things that I do on the side or not on the side, more of a, you know, two thirds full time. And then this was one third, um, quasi full time that brings in other income so that I’m not a hundred percent reliant on this. And I think that, I think that’s a good place for me personally, to be, I think everybody has to gauge that for themselves. But always, you know, taking breaks when you need to take breaks and giving yourself space, don’t fry yourself out and don’t have crazy overwhelming expectations, because it can take 12 or more years to see success.

Megan:

Oh it can. And I feel like it can feel longer than that too. Even if it didn’t really take you 12 years, there are a lot of people who are in it for just a couple of years. And I see it all over the forums and the groups, they’re like, I can’t do this. It’s so much work and I’m not making money. And so it really is about just figuring out how it serves you. And I love that you saw it as a creative outlet and that you didn’t put pressure on that. And that book that you mentioned Big Magic does talk about that. She said that really early on, didn’t she? Like in her youth, she saw that writing was her thing and it was her creative outlet, but right away, she knew that she couldn’t expect that. So I think that carries over to food blogging. Like you, it can be a form of expression for you, but you can’t expect it to carry you.

Caren:

No, not at first, anyways. And for 12 years I was writing blog posts going, nobody’s going to read this. Nobody cares. You know, like that’s what you’re thinking in your mind. And for some reason I just kept pushing forward. And I think a lot of it is, I mean, we always hear put your blinders on, stay in your own lane. Don’t compare yourself to other people. But at the same time, I looked to a lot of food bloggers and thought, I want to be like this person. And they have blazed this path and they have proven that it can be done. And they’re just wonderful encouraging people too. So it’s because of them that I always knew there was a possibility and just not to give up on myself. So I owe a hundred percent to the community for whatever success I’ve seen to today,

Megan:

The community, yes, totally agrees. But Caren, give yourself some credit, perseverance, just hearing your story. I think you’re way more of a persevere than you give yourself credit for us. So that is a huge factor in all of this because not everyone has that. So, just from my perspective, that’s what I see. Not everyone could have done that and carried through for so long. I am right there with you with longevity. I feel like I’ve been blogging for so long. And looking back to when I started, it feels like a lifetime ago, right? Oh goodness. So what advice do you have for newer bloggers starting out? I don’t know, give them your best as far as what to focus on, um, mindset and anything that you have along those lines?

Caren:

I think starting out, if I were to like, just start a blog tomorrow, I would really want to level set on why am I doing it? And who am I doing it for? I think that the world of blogging has changed a lot. And I don’t know if advertising alone is going to be the opportunity for excessive monetization going forward. So maybe you think about your blog, not just as an asset in itself, but as a means to something else. So what I’m trying to say here is if you are, for example, in the fitness space, then your blogging is bringing people in. And so it’s more of like a channel, but there’s something at the end of it that, you know, you’re trying to get people, as clients or, you know, is there a greater intention? So I think ineloquently, I am trying to say, figure out what your intention is behind blogging and how you want to serve what’s the path and user experience for your audience? Because I think that really is going to set you up for success early on. So that’s from a strategies perspective. From a mindset perspective, get ready to work harder and longer and have to not just work and execute, but plan and educate, like everything. You are everything from the accountant to the photographer, to the writer, to the marketer and then the technical person. I mean, and you got to learn early on, where are you willing to outsource and put money into your blog? Like, like I said earlier, I was not willing to leverage outsource technology help, which is what I really needed. And I didn’t even know I needed it. Today I just did a site speed evaluation or not evaluation, but a site speed improvement that I had to pay for. But my site speed based on Google insights or sorry, page speed insights is now at 97 and it wasn’t like 29 a long time ago. So be willing to, if you want this to be a business, be willing to invest money into it, not just time and sweat equity. Depending on who you are and how hard you are on yourself from a creative aspect, you’ve got to find a way to push back against that naysayer in your mind, that is always going to come up because you have zero feedback in the beginning, you are blogging to the ether and nobody is out there reading it until you start getting feedback. And if you are somebody who needs feedback from other people and reinforcement to motivate yourself, it’s going to be very difficult in the beginning if you don’t have readers and everybody starts out without readers, so be prepared for it. And if after all of that, you still want to do this because there’s nothing else that you could imagine doing, then go for it and pour your heart into it. And you know, enjoy it.

Megan:

That’s good stuff.

Caren:

Yeah.

Megan:

And don’t be afraid to lean on the community because it is a very lonely, isolating place to be sometimes, this food blogging world. And I’ve learned that community is so important for everything that you just mentioned. For figuring out which resources you need to focus on, for just networking and finding friendships and bouncing ideas off of other people. I mean, everything; community is everything in this world. So I think that’s a huge piece of it too.

Caren :

Totally, totally. And also inspiration and looking at models that you want to role model yourself after.

Megan:

Yes. For sure. Yup. I always say like, look at your top five most favorite food blogs regularly and don’t copy them, but just see what inspires you about them. Why are you looking at them regularly? Why do you love them? So I think that’s a huge piece of it too. There’s so much right. There’s so much to think about. So you’ve broken it down for us really well, Caren, and I appreciate you sharing your story with us, what an amazing story, not everyone has that story. So it’s been great to hear from your perspective just kind of how you’ve moved through your 12 year, actually 13, right? 2007 on there.

Caren:

And it’s funny because up until last year, I think from a page views perspective, which is how I, you know, either right or wrongly, I gauge my growth and success through my page views because that sort of feeds everything else in my model, my business model. And up until last year, it was only 2000 page views per month. And then when I reached out to you, I was at like about 40,000. And now today, because I record them every morning, I just passed 55,000.

Megan:

Oh my gosh. That’s amazing.

Caren:

Yeah. So my point there is that once you figure out what you’re doing wrong or you know, what you figure out is holding you back, sometimes that growth can be very exponential. So you can be sort of like, it’s like hockey stick growth, right? It’s like nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing. And then shuuum ,all of a sudden, Oh my gosh. And then once you get that traffic, it also grows like, now my Instagram is starting to grow, which is something else that didn’t grow. Cause I definitely recommend Milo tree. So all of these different things can compile. So be patient and know that the iceberg is growing underneath the water and you can’t necessarily see it yet, but eventually it’ll come up. And all of that work leading up to that point will be worthwhile.

Megan:

That’s such a great point. And I heard this recently, I don’t know where from, but it was like, even though you can’t see the miracles or the fruits of your labors now does not mean that they’re not happening. So like the iceberg analogy, you just don’t know what’s going on beneath the surface. So just keep working hard, I guess, is the theme there. Keep at it, keep persevering, like Caren did. Well, this has been such a great conversation, Caren, before we say goodbye, is there anything you feel like we’ve missed that you want to touch on?

Caren:

No, I think I’ve covered all of it at this point. Oh that and don’t start your blog on wordpress.com or anything like that; own your content. So maybe that’s a small tactical tip that I would provide.

Megan:

Perfect. Well, thank you again, Caren for sharing. And before you go, do you have a favorite quote or words of inspiration for food bloggers?

Caren:

Well, my favorite personal favorite quote is whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. And that helps me to persevere through anything. And I think, you know, at this current point in everybody’s life overall sequestered at home, a lot of people are suffering. And I think that this is a time to take a moment, breathe, recalibrate what’s important and know that we’ll all get through this time and we’ll be stronger for it in the end.

Megan:

I love it. Thank you so much. So I will compile a list of resources and just information relating to everything that we’ve talked about today on this episode. And you can find those on Caren’s show notes at eatblogtalk.com/thefithabit. Caren, tell my listeners the best place to find you online.

Caren:

The best place, probably my website, Thefithabit.com or I’m also on Instagram. Sadly, I don’t have The Fit Habit, like just the way it reads, but I have _thefithabit. So if you search for me on Instagram, I’ll pop up.

Megan:

Great. Well thank you again for being here, Caren, and thank you so much for listening today, food bloggers. I will see you next time.

Intro:

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Megan
Megan

Megan started her food blog Pip and Ebby in 2010 and food blogging has been her full-time career since 2013. Her passion for blogging has grown into an intense desire to help fellow food bloggers find the information, insight, and community they need in order to find success.

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